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Swimming in a Triathlon: How I Personally Prepared for my first Triathlon

How I Personally Prepared for Swimming in My First Triathlon

How I Personally Prepared for Swimming in My First Triathlon

It took me 3 years before I finally decided that I’d take part in a triathlon. Not only was this one of the biggest challenges I’d personally undertake, but it was also the first time I was getting myself into something I didn’t know too much about. While initially I thought it’s an impossible competition for which only the world’s best athletes sign up, I soon discovered that things are quite different.

You don’t need to have superhuman abilities nor do you need to be the type who goes to the gym 5 days/week for 1 year before you can even start thinking about getting into a triathlon. In fact, you only need to train for about three months and there are also many triathlon training programs you can consider to boost your endurance.

Speaking of which, today I want to talk to you about the most commonly feared triathlon element which is swimming.

My First Attempt

The first time I signed up for a triathlon I was barely able to swim 1 length across the pool, so obviously I had to practice swimming a lot. To speed things up a bit, I followed advice which brought me from zero meters to sixteen hundred meters in just 6 weeks. That, at the time, was a revelation for me and it really made me realize just how much I can achieve if I put my mind to it and stick to a certain routine.

In fact, my take is that once you manage five to six hundred meters continuously, you’ve already got the mechanics down and the only thing left to do is to build up your endurance. It’s going to be frustrating in the first few weeks until you get used to it, but soon enough you’ll find it a lot easier to complete the initial 500-meter goal you started out with.

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Swim Drills

Go for the 1 arm drill: I personally do this drill weekly and it’s definitely helped improve my stroke. So basically, this drill involves swimming twenty-five meters with the right arm and then twenty-five meters with the left arm only. After that, go for 50 meters with both arms. By doing so, you’ll develop a more even stroke.


Kicking Drills

Kicking drills are vital if you want to become a better swimmer, so that’s why when performing yours, you need to drive it from the hips while having your knees slightly bent. By doing so, you’ll effectively develop a much better kick.

You should take 1 or 2 days off between swim workouts as a beginner, to allow your body to recover properly. Also, if you want to be in the best form before the big day, you should consider tapering in the final buildup to the event.



To boost your endurance, I recommend swimming continuously for thirty to thirty five minutes. Starting slow is very important, so don’t go full throttle once you jump in the pool. Also, if you cannot swim for a full half an hour, start with ten or fifteen minutes. In the last 5 minutes, try to go strong, but with no more than ninety percent of your maximum heart rate effort.


Building Your Speed for Olympic Distances

To build your speed for long distances, you need to warm up by swimming four hundred meters easy. Next, go for a fifty-meters sprint with a thirty-second break between each sprint. It’s best that you start with ten to twelve sprints and work on adding an extra fifty-meters sprint every week for a maximum of eighteen sprints in total.

At this point you should swim one hundred meters easy. Do six sprints of twenty-five meters at forty-five second intervals. Try to swim at eighty five percent maximum heart rate.


It’s All About Technique

Once you’ve managed to swim your first kilometer, you should add in the more complex training elements. My advice is that you get a swimming coach to help refine your technique before you decide to test your skills with the well trained fishes. You also need some equipment of course and I recommend that you stick to the basics. A swimsuit, a swim cap and a pair of goggles (we recommend these) are all you need. After you have these, you are ready to do some damage and hone your swimming skills even more. Here is how I personally improved my swimming form:

Each stroke needs to be as efficient as possible:You may think that rapid strokes help you go faster, but you’d be amazed of how much faster you can swim by performing them with proper form.

Swimming on my sides: With your arms over your head, stand against a wall (ensuring your arms are at the same height). Try to rotate the hip and then use your arm to reach up. You’ll realize your body is a bit longer now and this is exactly what you need to do in the pool. Your strokes need to be smooth and you need to ensure you’re long on each side. Next, try to propel yourself forward by using momentum as you swim.

Look down or straight ahead: Lastly, always look down for the T (if you’re swimming in a pool), since that tells you how much you have until you come up on the wall.

As a first time triathlon participant who is willing to take up the swimming challenge, you need to be mentally and physically prepared for it. Proper equipment is very important, but even more so are proper technique and endurance.

Preparing for the triathlon swimming challenge does take a lot of dedication and hard work, but if you really want to prove yourself that you can do something you’ve thought impossible not long ago, then this is the kind of training you need to consider. It’s not going to be easy, that I admit, but the feeling you’ll get when you’re going to finish the challenge cannot be compared with anything else in this world – and that I promise you!

If you liked this article or found it useful, be sure to share it!

Author: Mischa Vladi

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